Losing someone you love is never easy. When that loss comes as a result of a violent crime, it can be even harder to move through the phases of grief and accept what has happened. For Alabama families who’ve lost a loved one through murder, the law allows several avenues for justice, including wrongful death lawsuits.
Nothing can bring back a lost family member. The criminal legal process sometimes works to hold an individual responsible for their actions, but that outcome is not guaranteed. Wrongful death lawsuits provide an additional means of holding individuals accountable when their actions and choices lead to loss of life. Families who want to pursue this option can benefit from partnering with an attorney who can help fight for your rights if you lost a loved one due to wrongful death.
What is wrongful death?
The law defines wrongful death as a loss of life that occurred due to the “wrongful act, omission, or negligence” of another party. There are many circumstances that can meet this legal standard. Medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, auto accidents, and workplace accidents all fall under the umbrella of wrongful death law.
When it comes to wrongful acts, Alabama law allows surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit in cases where a criminal act led to loss of life, including murder.
Should my family pursue criminal or civil litigation after a murder?
You don’t have to choose between pursuing criminal or civil litigation. In fact, the state will make the decision whether to pursue criminal charges in a murder case. Whether or not criminal charges are filed has no impact on your decision to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death cases are examples of civil litigation. Unlike criminal litigation where the defendant faces potential jail or prison time, civil litigation focuses on seeking damages, or financial compensation.
Deciding whether or not to file a wrongful death suit after a murder requires careful consideration of the financial standing of the person accused of murder. In cases where that individual has little or no assets, a successful wrongful death suit might not yield the desired results.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Alabama?
Alabama law clearly outlines who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In cases where the deceased person was an adult, only that individual’s personal representative can file. If there is a will in place, the personal representative, or executor, should be named within. If there is no will, close family members over the age of 19 can petition the court to be assigned as the personal representative.
In cases where the deceased person is under the age of 19, his or her parents have the right to file a wrongful death suit. It’s important to understand that if parents fail to file within six months of the child’s death, the law states that a personal representative must be assigned in order to move forward with a wrongful death case.
What actions should a family take after a murder in Alabama?
Families should begin by working closely with law enforcement to help bring the perpetrator of the crime to justice. It will take some time to handle the immediate tasks that follow an unexpected loss of life, including funeral planning.
Loved ones should also consider meeting with a wrongful death attorney to learn more about their rights under the law, and whether a wrongful death lawsuit is the right course of action. Many family members feel uncomfortable turning their attention to avenues for financial compensation after losing a loved one.
The reality, however, is that these legal actions are similar to personal injury cases in which a victim seeks compensation. The only difference is that in a wrongful death case, the victim is no longer able to act on their own behalf and loved ones step in to pursue a form of financial justice after a loss of life.
A skilled attorney could help fight for your rights if you lost a loved one due to wrongful death. Having a trusted legal advisor to guide you through this troubling time not only ensures that your family receives the most favorable outcome, but it can also deliver peace of mind for those struggling to accept a terrible loss.